English Grammar: "BEEN TO" or "GONE TO"?


Oh, wow, I've definitely never been there before.

Have you been there before?

While we're on that topic:

Hey, everyone, I'm Alex.

Thanks for clicking, and welcome to this lesson on two commonly used and sometimes confused

words in English.

And those two words are: "been" and "gone".

Now, these two words, I say they are commonly used and sometimes confused because they are

often used in a similar way, in a similar context, but there is one situation where

only one of them works.

Before we begin: What is "been", what is "gone"?

Grammatically, these are past participles.

And today we're specifically going to look at how to use them with perfect tenses, because

the confusion with the two words usually happens in the perfect tenses themselves.

So, first let's look at "been".

Notice the arrows that I drew here.

So, if you have been to a place, this means that you went there and you returned.

So, for example: "He's been to India."

And by the way, this "he's", this means: "he has been in this situation", this is the present perfect.

"He's been to India."

He went and he returned in his life.

This is a life experience that he had.


So you can say: "I've been to India.", "I've been to Disney Land.",

"I've been to Niagara Falls."

So, if you want to talk about life experience where you went to a place, you returned from

the place, it's behind you, it's in the past, it's done, it's in your life experience, "been"

is usually the word you want to go with.

Next: "gone".

Now, I'm going to look at "gone" in a specific context which basically means you went to

a place and you're still there, and you went recently.

So, for example: "He's gone to India".

-"Where's Frank?"

-"Frank's not in Canada, man. He's gone to India."

This means recently Hank left Canada...

Did I say Hank or Frank?

Frank or Hank?

How do you not remember?

That's okay, let's keep going.

"Hank/Frank, Hankfrank, Frankhank has gone to India."

So, he went to India maybe two days ago.

He's in India now.

Let's look at some more of these examples with "been" and "gone".


"I've never been to China."


Life experience, I've never been and returned, I have never visited China.

"They had been there before."

So we're using the past perfect tense, here.

They had visited that location before.

Ah: "We will have been in Montreal for three years by then."

Now, here, it's actually slightly different. Right?

Because you're not saying that you went to Montreal and you returned to Montreal, but

that you have lived in Montreal for three years, or: "We will have lived",

"We will have been in Montreal for three years by then."

So, here is a different sense.

Here, you're saying that in three years:

"Oh, we will have been in Montreal for three years by that time",

by a specific time in the future.


So, a different way to use "been".

Now, again, remember "been" is the past participle of the verb "be", and after "be" you can use

many, many, many, many different things, so you can talk about your age.

Right? You can talk about adjectives, your feelings.

You can follow the verb "to be" with a continuous form.

Right? So: "He's been playing", "He's been reading", "He's been doing".

For this lesson I specifically want to focus on using it to talk about travel and life

experience with visiting places and returning from places.

"Gone", okay.

"Jack's not here. He's gone home."

Now, here we're using the present perfect.

One of the uses for the present perfect is to talk about something that happened recently.

Okay? And you can still see the effects, or something that just happened.

So: -"Where's Jack?"

-"Oh, Jack's not here.

He's gone home. He has gone home."

Not: "He's been home", that means he went home and he returned, and it's a weird kind of sentence.

Maybe, unless he went for lunch, I guess.

And here's another one: "She's gone grocery shopping".

-"Hey, where is Matilda?"

-"Matilda's not here. She has gone grocery shopping."

Okay? So she went recently, she's there now.

Next one, ah: "They've gone on vacation."

So your neighbours are not here, you notice their car is not in the driveway.

"Hey, where are the Hendersons?"

-"Oh, the Hendersons are not here. They've gone on vacation."


And last one: "He's gone to work".

-"Mom, where's dad?"

-"Dad's not home.

He's gone to work."

Okay? Recently he left the house, he went to work, he's at work now.

Now, you could also say if it's the end of the day: -"Hey, did you go to work today?"

-"Yeah, I've been to work."


So, I've been to work today.

Next: What did I do here?

"I've never been or gone there before."

Curious. Curious.

Now, I did mention here-right?-that usually "been" is used when you want to talk about

a place you have visited and you've returned from.

"Gone" usually used to mean that you have gone to a place, you went to a place, and

you are still there now.

But really, when you're talking about life experience, in speaking sometimes people use

these words interchangeably.


So: "I've never been there before.", "I've never gone there before."

Here, I said: "I've never been to China.", "I've never gone to China."

If I say both of those, no one is really going to think I'm making a mistake.

Okay? So if you do say: "I've never gone to China",

"I've never gone to China", "I've never been to China",

"I've never been to China", it's not a huge mistake.


What I really want you to focus on is that in most contexts, if you want to be safe,

if you want to talk about life experience, stick with "been", if you want to talk about

something that just happened and you want to say the person is still there, still at

the location, use "gone".

So: "He's been to India."

Life experience.

"He's gone to India."

Recently, he went yesterday.

So, when you're thinking about "gone" in this situation, a little trick you can use is ask yourself:

"Where is he?

Where is she?

Where are they?"

And if they're not here: "Oh, he's gone to India.", "He's gone grocery shopping.",

"They've gone on vacation.", "He's gone to his brother's house."


So, for "gone", if you can ask yourself the question: "Where is ____?" then you can use

"gone" in this case.

And one more, before you guys ask me this question in the comments.

You might say: "Alex, why would I say: 'He's gone grocery shopping'?

Why don't I just say: 'He went grocery shopping'?"

Excellent question, such a good question.

So, remember, simple past, action that happened in the past and is finished.


So: "He went grocery shopping", "He went let's say five minutes ago".

Present perfect, specifically for present perfect in this case: "He's gone grocery shopping"

means that, you know, something that started in the past has continued into the present.

Really, you can use both.

You can say: "He went grocery shopping", "He's gone grocery shopping", and you won't be wrong

in either case because you can mentally think that you're referring to an action where he

went, he left the house, your focus is on the period he left the house.

"He went grocery shopping".

-"Where is he?"

-"He's gone grocery shopping."

The action started in the past, is still true now because he's still there now, so your

focus changes.

Both are correct.

Okay, that's it.

Are you confused?

Do you feel better?

Is it less confusing?

Hopefully it's less confusing now.

If you're really not sure, obviously you can watch the video again.

Check out tons of resources, like, on Google or wherever else on the internet, preferably

on engVid on this subject.

And if you really want to test your understanding of it, you can check out the quiz on www.engvid.com.

And while you're on engVid, don't forget to check me out on Facebook and Twitter, and

also subscribe to my YouTube channel.

So you can either subscribe to the channel directly through YouTube or go to my, like,

little, you know, profile page and find my YouTube link if you are watching this on engVid.

Til next time, thanks for clicking.


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